airBaltic now serving 50 destinations non-stop from Riga including Dubai; Linkoping and Dushanbe starting soon

Ribbon cutting
Showing clear ambitions to be the carrier of all the Baltic states: airBaltic president Bertolt Flick recently opened offices in Tallinn in neighbouring Estonia “because demand for our services is on the rise in Estonia.”

In the last year airBaltic has started 18 new routes from its main base in Riga, Latvia and has seen its passenger numbers at the airport grow almost 40% to just under two million, double that of just two years ago. As a result the airport saw demand grow by almost 17% to 3.69 million passengers in 2008. Thanks to an ever-diversifying network the airport reported that transfer passengers more than trebled in 2008 to 14% of the total. Impressively, the airport is still reporting traffic growth in each of the first three months of 2009 which is a rarity among Europe’s airports.

20 new routes since March 2008; not all have survived

Not all of the new routes launched since the beginning of 2008 have survived. Analysis reveals that some destinations are only seasonal while a couple (Sochi and Ventspils) appear to have been abandoned completely.

Destination Date Started Weekly frequency / capacity in S09
Chisinau (KIV) 31 March 2008 4 / 184
Athens (ATH) 1 April 2008 3 / 416
Ventspils (VNT) 11 April 2008 None
Nice (NCE) 17 April 2008 3 / 385
Yerevan (EVN) 17 April 2008 2 / 298
Almaty (ALA) 17 April 2008 Resumes 31 May 2009
Kuopio (KUO) 17 April 2008 3 / 138
Venice (VCE) 18 April 2008 2 / 236
Aalesund (AES) 20 April 2008 2 / 298
Billund (BLL) 1 May 2008 3 / 282
Simferopol (SIP) 2 May 2008 Resumes 6 May 2009
Sochi (AER) 18 June 2008 None
Tampere (TMP) 1 October 2008 5 / 230
Dubai (DXB) 24 October 2008 Resumes 23 October 2009
Amsterdam (AMS) 26 October 2008 7 / 826
Hannover (HAJ) 15 December 2008 4 / 184
Tromso (TOS) 31 March 2009 3 / 354
Palanga (PLQ) 1 April 2009 6 / 276
Linkoping (LPI) 1 May 2009 Not yet started
Dushanbe (DYU) 1 June 2009 Not yet started
Source: anna.aero routes database, OAG Max Online for w/c 30 March 2009
Image: Palanga
Presumably a feeder: The most recent route launch to Palanga in next-door Lithuania is another indication of the desire to serve all the Baltic states. Palanga is very close to Riga – 220km – and at the other end of the spectrum to lengthy sectors to Dubai and Dushanbe.

April 17th last year was a memorable day as the airline started four new routes all on the same day. airBaltic’s next two routes are to Linkoping in Sweden (starting 1 May) and Dushanbe in Tajikistan (starting 1 June). It will become the first EU airline to serve Dushanbe, which is a five-and-a-half hour flight from Riga. None of these new routes feature among the airline’s most served destinations from Riga. Three routes have over 40 weekly departures with Tallinn (in Estonia) and Vilnius (in Lithuania) tied on 49 departures followed by Helsinki with 40.

Image: Air Baltic Plane
Like Ethiopian Airlines, airBaltic will phase out its 50-seat Fokker 50s in favour of 76-seat Q400s. The first delivery is expected this November. Our friends at airBalic are also hosting a fascinating conference on the airline’s future: “Going to the North Hub Riga” on 29th April 2009. To register and get a copy of the programme email: hub@airbaltic.com
Chart: Top 12 Routes
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 30 March 2009

SAS no longer a shareholder; Q400s coming soon

Image: Air Stewardess
We’re off to Dushanbe (that’s Tajikistan; starting 1 June)

Earlier this year SAS, which helped set up the company in 1995, sold its 40%-plus stake in the airline to a local consortium so that the airline is now entirely owned by Latvians. The airline’s fleet of 18 737s, 10 Fokker 50s and two 757s will start to be modernised at the end of this year when the first of eight Q400s will be delivered to replace the Fokker 50s.

airBaltic’s biggest competitor at Riga is Ryanair which handled 22% of the airport’s traffic last year. This summer Ryanair will serve 13 destinations from the airport including double-daily flights to Stockholm Skavsta, and daily flights to Dublin, London Stansted and Tampere.

Image: Riga
Riga has seen passengers double in the past two years to almost four million, and it still reported growth for Q1 2009 – a rarity in Europe. Just last month TAV, the Turkish airport operator, won a tender to operate the airport with Latvian partner Skonto Buve with plans to invest up to €300 million.

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